It's all making sense. It took me long enough to reach this point. Just one kiss; that's all it took.
We got a tip that the recent baddie in town liked to hang out at the Red Oyster bar. I chuckled when I first heard the name, which drew a complete blank for Xander and Buffy – neither of them had heard of it. The Red Oyster bar you see is the local gay bar…Okay so there's no 'official' gay bar in Sunnydale. That would be far too progressive for this town. But they are gay friendly with lots of 'mixed couples', much like the Bronze on certain days of the week. However straight folks, although welcome, are the minority at the Big O as it's been nicknamed.
I knew the three of us would 'blend' so I had no quips about going. Xander, although mega supportive of my life, still had concerns – maybe its doubts about his own preferences but I wasn't about to play armchair psychologist with him. Anyway, he was worried that he would have to fend off sex-starved men who dressed like the Village People. Of course I chastised him for his stereotyping but I gave him the low-down – 'Tell them your flattered but you're straight and not interested. They'll appreciate the honesty.'
Buffy seemed intrigued about going but I chocked it up to interest about MY life. We never really sat down and had a heart to heart talk about just what my choices in life meant on a grander scale. It was always about the here and now. How's 'fill in the blank with the latest gal's name'? Where you going this weekend? Which spell did you and the misses try this week? Stuff like that. Our conversations weren't heavy with things like do you get scared about showing affection in public? Do you plan to have kids someday and if so, how? At times, do you feel like an outsider to the rest of the world? Nothing like that ever came up since I outted myself to Buffy ten years ago.
I wasn't offended because I knew why. Buffy lives in the here and now. She often considered that she didn't have much of a future and voiced it regularly. Her life expectancy giving her 'profession' wouldn't allow for long-term plans so she never made any of her own. As a result she never asked us about our own. I think it made things easier for her if she didn't have to focus on the long road ahead as much as where her feet where at the moment. Xander and I never complained. We still don't.
Idealistically, years ago, I imagined Tara and I growing old together – gray hairs and arthritis – living someplace warm like South Beach, Florida. She would be my first, my last, my always. Perhaps that was silly of me because when you decide to dedicate your life to the Slayer you take a chance. Tara took a chance in knowing me but she didn't mind the stakes. I remember one night we were in bed. I told her that my life was dangerous. She told me that loving me was worth the risk. I told her we might die someday. She told me, we all die someday. But as long as it was in my arms, that was fine by her. I never dreamed in my darkest nightmares that would become the reality. And I never imagined that I could become the latest 'big bad' that the Slayer had to face as a result.
I've often wondered if…if maybe she'd waited…if she waited just a few more days to return to me . . . Tara would be alive. Not so much for my sake but for hers. She was a beautiful human – inside and out and that light went out far too earlier. And it went out because of me. Yeah I know I didn't pull the trigger but it's a feeling of guilt by association. We all felt it actually. But I told them what Tara had said. I sometimes doubt though if she really meant it. If I'm lucky enough to get to Heaven that will probably be the first thing I ask…was it worth it? I just hope she says yes.
Months later after Tara's death, Dawn came across a book. 'Reviving the Dead 101' basically - a way to bring back the dead who died by human and not mystical means. It was the hardest choice I ever had to make in my life. But I couldn't make the same mistake I made with Buffy. I couldn't rip my angel from Heaven. I loved her enough to let her go. Dawn was upset with me at first. She said a lot of stupid things teenagers say when they're upset and apologized for them later. But it still cut – it cut deep. I took solace in the fact that eventually Dawn understood. Tara was my girl but I couldn't drag her back to earth to satisfy me or Dawn or anybody. If I had known Buffy had gone to a better place instead of a hell dimension…as hard as it is to say…I would have let her go too. And I would have continued to fight with the scoobies to our deaths.
Xander thinks that when you're truly destined to die you will. Nothing can change that. So regardless of whether Tara came back he feels she still would have lost her life that day. He may have a point. I mean…there are many, many times that any one of us should be pushing up the daisies but here we still are, almost fifteen years later from our Sunnydale High years. Buffy at 32 is the oldest living Slayer in history. Still beautiful; still strong. She teases me about my tiny crow's feet, which are starting to show, but I don't mind. I tell her it's from years of smiling and she really needs to look in the mirror too now and then. I'm not the only one who isn't getting any younger. Anyway, I try my best to believe Xander's theory…to think otherwise, to think that Tara died because of me, is just too damn painful.
I moved on after Tara. I didn't think it was possible but as clichéd as it sounds time heals all wounds …Let's see…there was Trisha, Denise, Barbara, Tiffany, Rachel…oh and Jan... I'm sure I'm forgetting a few others here and there. The latest and probably worst was Jan. All my relationships ended for one reason or another but Jan was the only one who voiced an ultimatum.
'Your friends or me' she said one night. Needless to say, she lost.
As a result I had 'dyke' tattooed across my BMW in spray paint and various windows smashed in the Summer's home. Buffy was ready to kill her but I talked her out of it…barely. When we started getting the harassing phone calls at all hours of the day and night that's when Buffy decided to visit her. She promised she wouldn't kill her; she just wanted to reason with her. Although I know how Buffy can 'reason' at times, enough was enough and I let Buffy go. She never mentioned what happened but I did notice Jan at the Bronze soon after with her arm in a sling…We never got another phone call after that…Maybe it's just coincidence.
It was around college graduation that things came into focus even more but I shrugged it off.
I was offered a job with a leading software manufacturer as a programming troubleshooter. My degree didn't mean nearly as much as my hacker skills it seemed but having that piece of paper did help I'm sure. $300,000 a year to start, full benefits, bonus, profit sharing, you name it. Buffy was immediately concerned that I would be leaving. There was no logical reason for me to stay. The thought of leaving hadn't actually entered my mind until she asked what my plans were now that I was 'set'. I told her I still wanted to stay but if she thought I should move out I would. Well that's not exactly true. I didn't finish the sentence before she started apologizing, saying that she wasn't giving me the boot. In fact it was the opposite - she did want me to stay. But she understood if I wanted a life of my own. It was at that point that I first realized our lives were intertwined.
We were a family. It was true that Dawn was in college, with her own life, but still I wanted to be there…just in case. Besides hearing the door open in the earlier morning hours, knowing that Buffy survived another 'night on the job', was better than sitting in my own apartment waiting until sunrise to make a phone call. At least that's what I told myself at the time. When I looked deeper I realized it was much more than convenience that kept me there although I had the means to leave.
It wasn't until the incident at the Red Oyster that things really came into perspective. But even prior to that night, I began to realize that with each new woman that popped up in my life over the years Buffy always had a problem with them – too tall, too talkative, too clumsy, too blonde, you name it. Nobody was good enough for me. I figured maybe she was holding onto Tara in some way. I know that Buffy cared for Tara. Hell she even confided things in Tara that she didn't confide in me, her best friend. Maybe no woman would ever be as good as Tara. But that night at the Red Oyster something changed…forever.
Like I said, we were tracking the newest 'addition' to the Sunnydale line-up. Buffy wanted to stay…undercover. By undercover she didn't want the demon knowing that she was trying to stake him out…no pun intended.
The demon's name was Marlrid – a real scumbag – although he appeared human. He got his kicks (and power) by picking a victim and harassing them relentlessly. He couldn't just go for the kill because the more fear and injury he instilled, the greater his strength became. So he returned to the same victim over and over again. Xander joked that maybe he was related to Jan. I had to admit that made me laugh.
So to the bar we went. Since Xander was still 'worried' about being someone's boy toy, I issued Buffy and Xander to the dance floor. If they were together then chances are neither of them wouldn't get hit on. As they took to the room's center, I talked with Cody who ran the bar. I asked if she'd heard of a guy named Marlrid but she couldn't help. I went out to the floor and told them the news. From there we decided to split up and search the room.
After a few minutes we found nothing and met back at the small hallway near the entrance where a variety of people were coming and going. Suddenly Buffy's eyes got wide as she watched Marlrid walk in with two 'friends'. We had to hide her somewhere, somehow but there was nowhere to duck. Quickly I turned to Xander and order him to tell us when he had passed us. I don't think Buffy even knew what hit her at first. I bent her body back slightly and kissed her, my long red hair spilling around her face, shrouding her features. She stiffened at first but became more relaxed the longer I spent nipping at her lower lip. Suddenly I felt her hand cup the back of my head. The next sensation was her lips rising to meet mine. Instantly, Xander came to mind. Yes the oddest of moments I know. But I remembered what it felt like when I kissed him after my long-standing secret admiration was realized. I thought it was the greatest rush I'd ever feel. Turns out, I was wrong.
When Buffy return the kiss, quicksilver shot to my center and the demon in the hall was forgotten for the moment. And as her tongue tentatively slipped past her lips to brush against my own, asking for permission, I felt my legs weaken in an instant. Not only did I give her permission but welcomed it. I began to suck on the offered tongue and I heard a soft moan escape. Whether it was from she or I, to be honest, I couldn't tell. In truth, I didn't care. I couldn't sustain her weight anymore and I brought her upright again, my body pinning hers to the wall. She felt toned but supple as my body melded against hers. I felt her pelvis thrust forward, only slightly, and it was the only invitation I needed. I moved my thigh between her legs, giving her the contact it was obvious that her body craved. My hands reached up both sides of her face. Perhaps it was reactionary. Maybe somewhere in my aroused mind I still knew I had to keep her hidden – always playing the faithful 'scoobie'.
She felt soft. So delicate. I'd never felt another woman as soft as Buffy, except for one – Tara. I think it was that moment that I knew…if anyone would ever take Tara's place in my life it was the woman I was kissing at the moment – the woman who, I should add, was kissing me back.
That fact hit me hard, shaking me from my rapture, pulling me from those sweet lips. I realized that it had been quite sometime now and Xander still hadn't said anything. Tentatively I looked around but no Marlrid. I looked to Xander. Speechless would be a good descriptor of his expression. I snapped my fingers to get his attention and he shook his head, his mind coming back to the hallway. 'Sorry,' he told us, 'I just went off to far-away, magical place for a moment.' I rolled my eyes. Men.
I turned back to Buffy. She looked nervous muttering something about taking Marlrid down as she went back inside the bar. I looked to Xander who just shrugged before we followed her inside. To make a long story short (too late I know), Buffy took Marlrid out that night and we headed back home. Xander dropped us off and wordless we went inside. She sat down on the sofa and turned the television on. I knew I had to say something, anything. I walked over and picked up the remote turning the television off. She looked at me but didn't say anything.
I told her we needed to talk about what happened in that hallway. She avoided it at first, trying to act nonchalant – there was nothing to discuss she said. She tried to go into the kitchen but I rose and grabbed her by the waist. Our bodies shook at the impact as I brought her back against me. I never realized how well we fit together physically until I leaned around to whisper in her ear.
I asked her if it was only me; was I reading too deeply into what happened? I asked her if I imagined her kissing me back in the hallway. She was quiet for a long moment. Finally she whispered, no. I asked if given the chance would she kiss me again. She said she didn't know. She felt confused all night she told me. Slowly I let her go, my fingertips brushing her hips. I told her I would give her time to figure it all out.
I walked to the staircase. Slowly, I turned to her and the tears she had in her eyes caught me off guard. They weren't tears of joy or pain. They were tears of fear. I could always tell when the Slayer was scared – petrified. What she experienced now with me, her best friend, scared her more than the vamps she faced on a nightly basis. It was ironic in a way – the red-haired, computer geek hacker had the power to make the strongest woman on earth tremble.
I knew she needed something more as I watched her from the lading. So I told her it was finally making sense. The reason for all the disastrous relationships I got into, the reason I sat up – sometimes until dawn – waiting for her to come home, the reason I continued to stay in a house when I could afford to be on my own. It all made sense now. Yeah it took 15 years but damn it I got there.
The reason was simple. The reason was her.
I told her I was sorry that my admiration upset her but I would never be sorry for the admiration. And I told her regardless of what she decided to do with these facts I would stick by her if that's what she wanted. And if that was too much then…I'd go away. Because I knew first hand…sometimes you had to give up the things you love most in the world because it's best for them.
The climb upstairs was a rough one and the longest I'd ever taken in that house. I put it all out for Buffy to see. Suddenly I was the one, much like Buffy, living in the present. It was now or never. I knew that. She knew it too. I got comfortable on my bed with a spell book, but my mind couldn't comprehend a single page. I got up again and decided to find something else to look at when I heard her voice in the doorway.
'You're right. About everything,' she told me. 'It's odd but ever since you've gotten your job I've been worried that you'd leave.' I reassured her that I wouldn't and she raised her hand to make me stop. 'Let me get this out okay?' she asked. I simply nodded and she continued. 'When you came to me and told me about Tara, about how you fell in love with her and it took you by surprise I've felt the same lately. Okay, maybe it's been longer than lately', she grinned. 'Point is you said you didn't fall for a gender. You fell for a person. I realized that what we have it's more than gender. It's deeper. Way deeper than that. So tonight when you kissed me I reacted. To be able to express that bond of depth in a physical way was…intense…So like usual when things get intense I run.'
I watched as her bottom lip began to quiver. 'Help me from running,' she said softly. 'Show me I'm not the only one in love here.'
I smiled and walked over. My hands reached up and stroked her face. 'I'll prove it,' I told her as she closed her eyes, savoring my touch. She grinned and opened her eyes.
'You've been proving it for nearly 15 years now Will,' she told me. 'Every mission. Every battle…Tonight I want you to show me.'
And show her, I did. Repeatedly. In a variety of ways.
Thank Gaia for the magic. I don't think I'd be able to keep up with the Slayer strength and stamina any other way. Finally, around dawn, she fell asleep, wrapped in my arms. Contentment was something I hadn't felt in years but she brought that back to me. It took me long enough to reach that point. But just one kiss; that's all it took. Finally I knew…it's all making sense.